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Wedding ceremony structure 101

A common question I get asked when meeting a couple for the first time is “What needs to be and what's usually included in a ceremony?”. I thought it might be helpful to pass on my learnings in simple terms…

Here is the basic structure of a typical ceremony and although there are a few parts that do tend to always be included (the legalities), it’s important to bear in mind that there’s no right or wrong – it’s your ceremony and that means it can be as customised as you want it to be and with your own flavour.

1. Wedding party entrance – depending on your ceremony style, you may already be present at the ceremony location, or else you may enter with a support party and walk down the aisle, often with music playing.

2. Opening remarks – your celebrant will welcome everyone and set the atmosphere for the celebration to follow.

3. Reflection on your marriage – the celebrant will often share your love story, what the commitment means to you and your hopes for the future.

4. Readings – you may ask some of your guests to offer their well wishes and this could perhaps be through a reading, a poem, or a song that suits your relationship.

5. Declaration of intent – the “I do” part, you both confirm that you are willingly entering into a binding relationship.

6. Exchanging of vows – next, it’s time for you both to say your wedding vows and the legal requirement of the ceremony “I…take you…as my wedded wife/husband”. It is the time to express your love and make some personal promises to each other.

7. Exchanging of rings – then you'll exchange rings with a few words from the celebrant about their significance.

8. Unifying ritual - an optional element is the inclusion of a ritual such as a sand ceremony, candle lighting or tree planting as a symbol of your unification into a new entity.

9. Pronouncement of marriage – next comes your official introduction to your guests as husband and wife, or wife and wife, or husband and husband AND “You may share your first kiss as a married couple!”.

10. The signing – signing the Particulars of Marriage is a legal requirement of any marriage ceremony in New Zealand and you will also need two witnesses to sign that they have witnessed you saying your vows.

11. Closing remarks - an opportunity for the celebrant and perhaps your family and friends, to share a few final words, and for you to be introduced as Mr and Mrs or the New Couple.

12. Recessional – now it’s time to move on from the ceremony to your reception to party and you’ll exit as newly weds followed by the bridal party and often to music and loud cheers!

Remember, this is only a guideline, and I will work with you to shape your ceremony to you.

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